Hansel and Gretel (1954) Poster

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Hansel and Gretel: Made in the United States
MovieResearch16 April 2005
Despite its European, "old world" look, Hansel and Gretel was made in New York City. Indeed the comments to the contrary are a tribute to the filmmakers' success in evoking a genuine fairy tale style. Nonetheless, the film was shot using conventional stop-motion puppets (notwithstanding the producer's claims to using some sort of mysterious "electronic" method) in the main room of an abandoned courthouse which is still standing at the corner of Second Avenue and Second Street in New York City. The large set was built in the main chamber on the second floor (now the largest of several theaters in what is currently (2005) the Anthology Film Archives).

Apparently electromagnets were used to hold the stop-motion puppets in place during some sequences, but normal procedures were used for the rest. This and some hype that lured in backers may account for the mistaken report that they are electronic puppets. They were solid, armature puppets and not clay (or "claymation") dolls.

The set survived the production and actually toured county fairs as a fairy tale exhibit for many years after the completion of the film.
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Mybergh's Masterpiece
discovision16 July 2005
This was the first full-length stop-motion feature made in the United States. In spite of other comments posted here Mybergh's "Hansel and Gretel" was filmed entirely in New York City.

The film was done sequentially and as funding for the production dried up and the release date drew nearer the animators were forced to speed things up. The animation becomes quite hurried and sloppy near the end and if you look closely you will notice that both the angels from the Dream Pantomime and the Revived Gingerbread Children are only multiple castings of both Hansel and Gretel redressed. There simply was no time to do original sculptures for these characters.

This was to be the first in a series of full-length stop motion features by Mybergh's production team, but despite it doing exceptional business in Germany it failed to ignite at the box office in the United States. According to members of the Mybergh Estate most of the original elements are still intact and we can only hope that someone will take it upon themselves to do a proper restoration of this amazing film to replace the shoddy, amateur DVD edition that is currently available. Anna Russell's vocal performance as Rosina Rubylips is one that is unlikely to ever be equaled and Evalds Dajevskis' set designs definitive.
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Magical version of "Hansel and Gretel"
MarcoAntonio12 August 2005
This film has always been one of my top favorite childhood films. "Hansel and Gretel" was not always easily accessible to kids. Although it had sporadic television showings back in the days of black and white televisions, kids normally had to wait about every three years for it to be theatrically re-released to see it. I remember seeing it once on television back in the days before we had color television sets and then seeing it several years later on the big screen (in all of its Technicolor splendor) and it captivated me by being the definitive version of the famous tale. I liked it so much that when they re-released it some years later I went to see it again! After the mid-seventies it more or less disappeared and it seemed to have become a forgotten film (shown occasionally on early cable T.V.). However, in the early eighties I was surprised to see it on VHS through a company called Media Home Entertainment. Sadly, their print had a terrible mono soundtrack making the film inaudible and the scene where the the stars form in the heavens (after the Sandman floated away) looked like it was set in the daytime instead of at night-time. Later, in the eighties a no-frills video company released the same print with a marginally better soundtrack. When HBO showed it in the early nineties, they showed a restored quality print. One with perfect sound and with the stars in the heavens forming in the evening (keeping to the evening setting of Hansel and Gretel asleep under a tree in the forest). Not long afterward, that restored version was put on to VHS by Vestron and I was delighted. Too bad that Vestron didn't hold on to the rights long enough to put out a DVD edition of the film. It has since fallen into the hands of another company and they've evidently used a not exactly perfect VHS print of the film as the master source for their DVD presentation of "Hansel and Gretel". The evidence of VHS decay are sporadically obvious during the film. It's annoying that the company probably had the means to give us "the" perfectly restored version of the film on DVD, but instead decided to gyp us with a low-budget video to DVD transfer of it. I hope that another company will obtain the rights to this film and put a good copy of it on the market soon. "Hansel and Gretel" must have been a pretty big hit in its day (1954). There was a comic book and a record album of this film. I know that the two times that I saw it in the theaters it played to packed movie houses. Let's hope to see a restored DVD edition of it the near future!
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It was made in New York, I was there.
bill-21189 January 2008
Although this film may look like it was from Eastern Europe, it was definitely made in New York City. I was a member of the Apollo Boys Choir in 1953(we were from Palm Beach, Florida), and I remember visiting the studio in New York while the film was being shot. We came up from Palm Beach in the fall to record our part of the sound track. The choir director, Coleman Cooper, was a perfectionist, and we worked harder on this music than any other set of pieces I can remember. Unfortunately, by the time we got to New York we were pretty sung out. The recording session was long, and during it the producer decided that our sound needed some bolstering, so he brought in several female members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus to help out. Mr. Cooper must have been very disappointed. This was an important project for him. We boys were a little disappointed too. I, at least, quickly got over it. The women, of course, were excellent singers, several were quite attractive, and they thought we were cute.
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thethdwarf0315 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I first watched this film as a child in the 80's. I loved it and a few weeks ago heard something that reminded me of this story. I rented it from NetFlix and watched it last night.

Although they film quality is poor, it was a great film for it's time and this movie still entertains me today. My daughter also watched this film and I saw the same emotions in her that I remember feeling as I watched it as a child. Fear of the wicked witch, the amazement in her eyes when she saw the witch's house and the giggles at the little bear and goose. It just took me back to a time long ago when those little things made me happy and I'm glad I was able to find this film to share it with her.

The story is timeless, the film is excellent and I just love it! Great for all ages!
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Charming Children's Film
syllavus21 December 2004
When I was growing up, we had a battered old VHS copy of this film that someone had had the presence of mind to tape off of the television one day. Even though I was born over twenty years after this film was created, it still captured my imagination and I remember watching it many times over with my older sisters.

This film is a retelling of the classic story of Hansel and Gretel, with a few whimsical additions and a musical score. The stop-motion animation used to create this film, is both primitive and charming at the same time. Although nowadays much smoother looking animation can be created on the computer, the claymation creatures in this film do not suffer in comparison, any more than claymation classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

The wonderful thing about this little film is the atmosphere created by the animated visuals, and by the lovely soundtrack. It's enchanting and creepy at the same time, which was an irresistible combination when I was a child. The cheerful parts are fun and engaging, while the more sinister scenes with the witch are wonderfully unsettling. Although it's been years since I've seen this film, to this very day I still remember the songs word for word and can recite from the script.

I think any child fond of fairy tales, or fantasy stories would enjoy seeing this little film. If you happen to see it on the television, or find it for sale somewhere, don't pass it up!
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A wonderful children's movie!
Jennifer Avenell26 April 2004
We had the sound track when I was growing up. My brothers and sisters and I listened to it over and over. I'm well into my forties now, and I can still reel off songs and dialog. My older sister burned CDs of the sound track for us all a few years ago. A wonderful present! I hadn't heard it for decades, and missed it very much. The angel pantomime still gives me goosebumps, it's so very, very beautiful. The witch was played for laughs as much as for being scary. She is delightful. My friend's children always love it when I give them my imitation of her cackle.

I was priviledged to actually see the movie once in a theatre, a children's matinee. How I wouldn't love to have a copy of it. The music and vocalizations are timeless, beautiful, thrilling. I'm sure any child would love this classic as much as I and my siblings did!
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Correction re the boys' choir used in this movie
Old Maestro12 May 2006
I found the other comments to be enlightening, especially with regard to the hurry-up conclusion.

However, I know for a fact that the boys' choir used in this movie was no a European choir, but the Apollo Boys Choir, originally of Palm Beach, Florida, that moved to Dallas, Texas until its director, Coleman Cooper, retired. It is unfortunately no longer in operation. During the Depression, the choir toured the United States in limousines, not buses, and sang for President Roosevelt at the Hot Springs resort where he escaped the pressures of Washington DC. The choir accompanist, Mr. Bert Hallack, is a resident of Palm Beach.

One famous former chorister of this choir is George Bragg, who founded the Texas Boys Boys (of Fort Worth).
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Movie in limbo
Norman-330 June 2000
Its hard to find this movie. It was an import (from Eastern Europe somewhere) but you'd never know it from the care in dubbing. It's the opera, but trimmed to essentials and clearly aimed at children. I was absolutely enchanted by it as a youngster, less enthralled to see it as an adult. But then TV prints left a lot to be desired. It was a lovely looking movie. The record was available on LP for ages. Pity young people can't get to know this charming stop-motion film.
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Fantastical in every sense
TheLittleSongbird7 February 2015
The story/fairy-tale is one of the best-known and is a timeless one, while Humperdinck's opera still enchants me after being first acquainted with it 11 or so years ago. It is also one of the most accessible operas(with the music not too heavy and it's a story almost everybody knows) and one of the few to translate well into English.

This 1954 film does get a little hurried visually and narratively at the end, but is overall one of the best versions of both the fairy-tale and the opera(I personally saw it for the first time recently so don't have nostalgic bias for it). The visuals are beautiful and clever, charming in the lighter parts and atmospheric in the darker parts. The amount of effort put into making the film is more than evident throughout. Humperdinck's music is enchanting and is not trivialised whatsoever here, it's played with energy and depth by the orchestra and beautifully paced. The choral singing is well-balanced and committed, if recording the music was indeed punishing it doesn't show at all in the singing.

Hansel and Gretel(1954) works well also in the writing and story departments. The script is whimsical and witty, enough to make one laugh, bite the nails and occasionally cry(not exactly emotionally but because there are scenes done so beautifully that it does evoke some emotion, notably the dream pantomime). The storytelling is close in detail and spirit to both the fairy-tale's story and the opera and captures the essence of both. Filled with cute animals, charmingly lovely moments like the dream pantomime(figuratively and literally heavenly here), funny moments- both light hearted and dark- like with the chemistry between Hansel and Gretel and especially the witch, whimsy and darkly scary moments like with again the witch, there is enough to captivate children and adults alike, not making the mistake of making it too scary for children or too juvenile for adults.

All the characters engage in personality and there is a real attempt to make them individual, the most memorable and most colourful character being quite easily the witch. All the acting and singing is top-notch, several have picked out Anna Russell as the standout and I am going to whole-heartedly agree, Russell is hilarious and genuinely creepy as the witch and was clearly having a whale of a time. That does not mean though that the likes of Mildred Dunnock, Frank Rogier and Christine Brigham didn't excel, they certainly did in fact with Dunnock an authoritative and no-nonsense mother-figure, Rogier is a Father that is easy to feel sorry for and Brigham's Hansel and Gretel are both spirited and appealing. Just that Russell made the biggest impression. Overall, fantastical in every sense, for lovers of the story, the opera or both this is a version that is not to be missed. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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Admirable attempt
BrianG23 December 2000
This is a stop-motion animation film of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, done, apparently, somewhere in Europe--the Austrian Apollo Boys Choir does the background vocals, so the film could have been made there or in nearby Hungary or Czechoslovakia, both of which were producing well-done animation films--but passed off as an American film, which it is not. Considering the time it was made and the conditions existing in Europe during that period, it is an admirable attempt indeed. The stop-motion, while not up to the standards of Ray Harryhausen, who was doing similar work at the time, is still well-done, and great care was obviously taken in the dubbing and scoring of the film. The background music is at times a bit overpowering, and there are spots where the dialogue is drowned out by it, but there are some imaginative touches throughout and and some visually beautiful moments. Children who are used to today's high-tech computer animation may not be impressed technically, but the film overall should appeal to them. Recommended.
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Among the creepiest puppets ever put on film
Leofwine_draca25 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I have to admit that I didn't watch this animated version of the Engelbert Humperdinck (the original composer, not the modern-day singer) opera in all seriousness. That's because I was thoroughly creeped out by the animatronic puppets used in the story, which are the most disturbing I've ever seen. Thus despite the music and the staging, I could take none of this seriously, and instead was left feeling uneasy throughout. The bad dubbing over the top doesn't help much either. This truly is the stuff of nightmares and I've been unable to stop thinking about it afterwards.
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One of the most disturbing folktales
Cristi_Ciopron24 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I have found this version to be carefully crafted and relatively appealing, though the characters were unlikable, beginning with the kids and their pets, and so perhaps it's not a cartoon to elicit exalted admiration, but just a bit of amusement for a cool evening; anyway, it has the mandatory blandness one would expect. For a moment, I thought of discussing European folktales instead of discussing this flick; but why not discuss them both, and give everybody a good time here? I am a folklorist by training, a movie buff by vocation, so take the joyride!

This 'Hänsel and Gretel' is a puppet show, which only adds to the delight and supplies the necessary merriment to be found even in such a dreadful succession of events. The German Romantic imagination was immoderate and wild (which is why some of us like it so much, enjoy it immoderately, for which I, beginning at age 19, can testify); but then again so were the folktales, the genuine folklore of the nations—immoderate, disturbing and lurid. Such is the narrative folklore—lurid, licentious, obscene, subversive, debauched and puzzling. And, hand in hand with Hänsel and Gretel, we step into some of its most lurid and disturbing territory. Of course a kids' movie isn't willing or ready to deal with such stuff. As an aside, the German Romanticism was a huge attempt at recovering the genuine feel of these folktales; an attempt stifled by the bourgeois 19th century's pedagogical obtuseness and inconceivably harmful hypocrisy. In the center of 'Hänsel and Gretel' reigns a particularly disturbing symbol: the hag, the old—woman who 'eats children'. This is even more shameless than the giant met by Jack of the beanstalk fame. So these European peasants liked their tales spicy and weird! They were into some sick stuff!

Two children are chased away from home by their angry mother, chased and sent away to go looking for strawberries and provide for the family's meal; they are led astray partly by their own carelessness and negligence, as the witch seems quite moderate in using her powers and spells, as if she cunningly misguides but doesn't force one out of his way, she doesn't really kidnap the children but more or less fools or deludes them, lures them away, and these magical worlds have their own behavioral codes. The suggestions of H & G (pedophilia, sadism, cannibalism) are obvious enough. Now you see how kids raised with suchlike tales would grow up to write or read voraciously Gothic novels. HANSEL AND GRETEL is a very Gothic fairytale, very violent, cruel and disturbing, the way these German folktales knew how to be, very engrossing and taut, about, among others, the appalling terrors of the Teutonic forest, and one is reminded of the Apostle of Germany (S. Boniface, I think) taking down a tree, cutting it himself; the American genre cinema also has the notion of the forest, the wood being a dreadful place, and there are countless flicks about the monsters lurking in these environments. Most of the kids' adaptations aren't really ready to deal with the truly Gothic nature, unrelentingly disturbing, of the story in H & G, trading it for the commercially safer cuteness. So, can H & G be made into a kids' movie? There are literally lots of screen adaptations, including an erotic version, and some were made by giants like Lotte Reiniger and Harryhausen, so that the cinema archivist will find joy in this chapter.

We see that our ancestors were very intent on scaring the children with the fairy tales they told them. Nowadays vampire—sagas seem pretty bland by comparison.
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